Zeenat Kulavoor & Nargis Shaikh on Making Tohfa, Our Limited Edition Set of Greeting Cards

Designers Zeenat Kulavoor & Nargis Shaikh take us behind the scenes and share their experiences developing and creating Tohfa, a set of six greeting cards, exclusive to Indian Goods Co.
Profile of two ladies with long black wearing  blue and white blouses looking at a developed screen in a printing studio

 

Our first exclusive collaboration was with Zeenat Kulavoor and Nargis Shaikh, multi-disciplinary designers from Mumbai. They created Tohfa, the first product exclusive to Indian Goods Co., which is a set of 6 greeting cards packaged in a bespoke box.

As Mumbai natives, they have a deep connection to the city and their work is often driven by experience and memory. It was clear early on that they wanted to explore these aspects with Tohfa, and to reference their love for Mumbai in the project. From the first call on, it felt we were working on something special, and dozens of emails, calls and chats between Mumbai and Frankfurt later, we're proud to share the process and stages we went through. We worked with Pritam Arts on printing and production, a niche screen printing studio and a long-time collaborator of the ladies. A family-owned business, the father-son team was responsible for the incredible detail and finish of each card.

 

A blue mosque in Mohammed Ali Road market in South Mumbai surrounded by residential high rise buildings

 

An Indian male vendor in a pink shirt selling dried fruits sitting on the floor of his store

 

On the Mohammed Ali Road neighbourhood as inspiration: 

Zeenat: “I’ve always been fascinated by the Mohammed Ali Road area of Bombay. As a little girl, my grandfather would take me there, to his friend’s shop selling glass bangles. He’d always gift me some, slipping them on my hands and later we’d walk to his house through crowded alleys. I loved all of it. Today, years later, I’m still drawn back there, to the atmosphere of festivity, the little shops selling shiny jewellery and embroidered skirts. When we spoke with Vatsala, the founder of Indian Goods Co., I’d just visited the neighbourhood and the experience was so fresh. It felt like the right thing to try create something out of it!

Nargis: “I’ve always wanted to explore this old market that I’ve loved since childhood, to try and understand my obsession with it, my attraction toward it. I’m hoping that the cards carry these sentiments with them.”   

 

An Indian male vendor in a pink shirt selling dried fruits and other dry goods in his store in Mumbai

 

Pencil sketch on white paper of an Indian male vendor dried fruits and other dry goods in his store in Mumbai

 

On connection and celebration:

Zeenat: “Nargis and I wanted to convey a sense of celebration with this project; a celebration is always a way for people to connect, to create memories and share happy moments. Every celebration includes a Tohfa, which is Urdu for gift, so we created our Tohfa based on the objects that are part of special celebrations, like henna, jewellery, perfume and flowers. I picked beautiful Urdu words to compliment each of Nargis’ illustrations, like Lutf (pleasure), Ruhaniyat (soulfulness) and Khawabeeda (dreamy).”

Nargis: “I wanted each illustration to create an environment where the viewer finds themselves observing a specific person, building a connection between the two: the kohl seller daydreaming, the flower seller carrying his garlands. I wanted to recreate the sense of connection I experienced when I was at the bazaar speeding time with them myself.”

 

Pantone swatch cards lying on a white table next to a paper with five coloured circles printed on it

 

Woman in blue blouse holding a green paper with gold and green prints on it, wearing a watch with brown leather strap

 

Portaits of two young Indian women with dark skin and long black hair against a bright pink background  

Screen printing for a bespoke finish:

Zeenat: “Screen printing was a natural choice as a technique, though it is extremely exacting and requires a high level of technical skill. It brings a quality that can’t be replicated, though it is an intensive process. Each colour was carefully tested to get the shade exactly right; every card was hand pulled and printed, so each piece is unique, literally a work of art.”

Nargis: “I find screen printing adds to the uniqueness of each piece, it brings an added layer of life.. Placing each element on a separate layer, printing with these tactile inks that raise the image off the paper. Especially with Tohfa, where each illustration is so detailed, I find this technique brings each image to life.”

 

Paper with purple print lying on a white table in a screen print studio with tools lying around 

Green box and violet greeting card with screen printed image of flowers and gold Urdu calligraphy on a white table with orange envelope

 

Our special version of Tohfa  celebrates the beauty of life, and each card is perfect for any occasion. Currently available in a limited edition of 40 sets.

 

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Words: Vatsala Murthy Images: Nargis Shaikh, Zeenat Kulavoor, Vatsala Murthy

 

 

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